The Italian Church has denounced that the mafia is taking advantage of the poor caught in the coronavirus credit crunch.

– Organised crime groups “ready to take possession of the assets of people in need”

“Criminal organisations are certainly taking advantage of this emergency”, Monsignor Alberto D’Urso, the president of the Italian Bishops-funded National Anti-Usury Council, told Vatican News April 24.

“Because if it is true that banks have ‘turned off the [credit] taps’. criminal organisations are always ready to lend, because immediately afterwards they are ready to take possession of the assets of people in need”, warned the priest, who has been campaigning against usury for a quarter of a century.

D’Urso also decried the re-emergence in the midst of the pandemic of the black market for gold and jewellery, in which “those who are buying tend to hide under other names and are usually people from the world of organised crime”.

– Food in supermarkets “up by more than 5%” in price

Speaking to Vatican News, D’Urso deplored the fact that the situation of the poor in this time of the coronavirus “has already worsened: the number of poor people knocking at the doors of our churches and at the doors of our foundations is increasing”.

“It is enough to go shopping to see that food products have increased more than 5%” in price, the priest decried.

– The Pope’s warning: usurers are “dehumanised delinquents”

In his Mass April 23 in the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis denounced the plight of the “many families who are not working and do not have food to put on the table for their children”, and who in a cruel twist of fate fall “prey to usurers who end up taking the little that they have”.

“This”, the pontiff deplored, “is another pandemic, another virus: It’s a social pandemic”.

In his April 8 Santa Marta Mass Francis had already railed against “Judases” – “mafiosi” and “loan sharks” – who are trading on coronavirus desperation by “sell[ing] their neighbour”.

In a letter late March, too, the Pope that usurers “are the true plague of a social future” and “dehumanised delinquents”.

The pontiff’s is a warning D’Urso said he welcomes, but he insisted that more needs to be done.

– Plea to government to suspend mortgage payments, home foreclosures

“It is really necessary that banks turn on the credit taps to the maximum”, D’Urso explained, adding that from the National Anti-Usury Council “this is what we have asked the banks to do and what we are asking the government for”.

The priest explained that the Council is asking the Italian government “to suspend mortgage payments and loans for nine months, and to suspend foreclosure until December 31”, as well as for various other legal protections for the victims of unscrupulous lending.

– To banks: “Stop thinking only about profits”

Though D’Urso set out his petitions for lawmakers, he also warned that “right now the law is not enough” to force banks and usurers to become more solidary.

“Either we open our hearts to the attention of the marginalised or we won’t be able to do anything”, the Anti-Usury Council president urged.

“It is inconceivable to think of a political world oblivious to people’s problems and needs.

“As for banks, it would be necessary to stop thinking only about profits. The profit must contingent on people, and not the other way around.

“Instead, we see that this gain is always for a few and does not become the promotion of the common good, the dignity of the people”, D’Urso decried.

Next on Novena:

23/4: Santa Marta Mass: Pope denounces money-lenders profiting from hunger of families during coronavirus

8/4: Santa Marta Mass: Pope rails against “Judases” who trade on coronavirus desperation, “sell their neighbour”

Pope cautions governments on coronavirus: to put economy before people would be “viral genocide”


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.